ComTech: IT Support Stirling

Home working

We have an issue in Scotland at the moment called the Forth Road Bridge.  You see the old girl is a bit sick so the government has had to close her until she gets repaired.  The problem is 60,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge and now have to be diverted upsteam to the other two bridges which is causing chaos on the roads and a lot of unhappy commuters (myself included).

I am lucky though that I can do most of my work from home.  A lot of other people could probably do the same if their employers thought about it a bit more and implemented the required measures.  If you think about it you don’t actually need to implement a lot of measures to work from home.

So what do you need?  The main two are:

Access to emails

Emails can be accessed from anywhere so long as you have an active internet connection.

Access to files

You have two main options here, either setup a VPN to your main server allowing secure access to all your files or migrate all your files to cloud storage.  Using something like Onedrive for Business, Box, Google Drive, or Dropbox would accomplish this very easily but as always the size of your business would determine how scalable these options are.

You could go the whole hog and migrate to Office365 or Google Apps and have access to the complete package (ie emails and cloud storage).  Yes these are monthly subscriptions (per user) but if you way up the monthly cost against lost productivity whilst commuting to work you may be surprised.

Now I know that for some people working from home is not a practical solution but for a lot of us it is so long as the required measures are put in place.

And the Forth Road Bridge? Please get the old girl fixed!!

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter


The world of subscription software

The world is changing people!! Coming to the end are the days when you bought a piece of software which you could call your own and use it as many times as you wanted.  Slowly but surely paying a monthly or yearly subscription for software is becoming the norm.

When Microsoft announced the release of Office 2013 they had slowly but surely moved the goalposts (not in a technical way but a monetary one).  This was the first time that Office was offered on a yearly subscription having always previously been a box set .  Yes you can still buy Office 2013 but not as a disk.  You get access to a download that you can only use on one system whereas the subscription allows you to install on 5 systems (Home Premium) along with a host of features not available if you only bought the download.

It is not only Microsoft that has started charging for a subscription as Google are also at it. Google Apps which was once free (personal use) is now offered on a yearly subscription of $50 whilst Adobe are also charging a subscription for their Creative Suite software like Photoshop.

In the depths of online storage Dropbox, Google Drive and the rest charge a monthly fee if you require more storage space then they offer for free.

So where does this leave the consumer?  To put it blunt out of pocket.  The reason that companies are charging a subscription for their software rather than a one off price is that they can make more money – pure and simple.  Is there anything you can do to mitigate this?

Yes and No.

If you have a copy of Microsoft Office dating back to 2000 – 2010 it will still work for a while yet until Microsoft decides that newer formats will not be compatible and you would have to move over to the subscription model.  You could switch to an opensource productivity suite like Libreoffice which is free and can do almost everything Office can (besides Outlook).  If however you rely on Office in some shape or form you would have to start paying your monthly (Office 365) or yearly (Office 2013) subscription at some point.

It is not all doom and gloom though as subscription software does have its benefits.  You will always be on the most updated software as this would happen automatically and in the case of Microsoft Office (Office 365) and Google Apps you can access it through a browser.  You would also be able to deal with software budgets better as you know how much is spent on a monthly or yearly basis.

At some point though you will be paying (unless you run Linux of course!!).

About the Author


Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.





Why the cloud doesn’t always add up

The Cloud.  These two words have been thrown about so much in the last couple of years that it is very hard to get away them. From a distance the advantages of the cloud look great – access your data from anywhere, offsite backups, reduced hardware costs, no upfront software costs etc however there are some drawbacks which I shall outline below.

1. No internet no files

Without a working broadband connection the cloud doesn’t work.  You have no emails and no access to your files.  If you use an online productivity suite (eg Google Docs) you can’t work on your files either.  You may be thinking “everywhere has broadband these days” but I can assure you the speed varies significantly.  For instance I know of a company up in Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland who are trying to run their office off 1 Meg!!  Online file storage would not be an option for them as they don’t have the bandwidth to accomodate it.

2. Where exactly are your files stored?

I know they are online but where? For instance some cloud providers (eg Dropbox) store their clients data across multiple servers in multiple locations (in their case across the US).  If you work for the military would you want your data stored in a different country? Don’t think so!!!  For the small business it may not be such a big deal but it is definitely something to consider.

3. Who actually owns your data and how is it used?

I am guessing that at this point you are thinking “the files are mine so it must be me” however  as it turns out it depends who you store your data with.  Taking Dropbox as an example all the files you store with them are yours – final.  They don’t look at them they just store them. Now lets take Google.  Any files you store with them are still yours however they can use the data you store with them to improve their services.  This is detailed in their terms and conditions.  I bet you didn’t know that did you?

4. Subscription Charges.

Instead of laying out a large sum of money right at the start for software like Microsoft Office the cloud allows you to use online productivity suites for a monthly subscription.  This is designed to help you spread out the costs.  Sounds good but lets dig a little deeper.  For example say you have 5 employees using 5 PC’s each requiring a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 business at a price of £120 and you expect to use it for 5 years.  The total outlay would be £600.  Now if you considered switching to online productivity suites you would probably use either Office 365 or Google Apps (please feel free to correct me if I am wrong).

Lets take Google Apps first.  Google Apps for Business is straightforward in its pricing.  It costs £5/user/month so in our example it would cost 5 * 5*12*5 = £1500 (5 users at £5/month for 5 years) which is considerably higher than the £600 it would have cost to buy 5 copies of Office 2010 in the first place.

Now lets have a look at Office 365.  Microsoft is somewhat more confusing in its pricing but for our example the best package would be Small Business P1 which costs £3.90/user/month.  So for our small business with 5 employees it would cost 3.90*5*12*5 = £1170.  Again significantly higher than purchasing the software.  So why would you pay the higher charges? The answer is mobility.  You can access your files and edit them from anywhere with a broadband connection.  Only you and your business can decide if this is worth paying the extra for.

So to round up the cloud has a hell of a lot of advantages but just be warned it can have some major disadvantages too.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.






Do you actually need that office?

Here is an interesting thought for you.  With mobile technology advancing as fast as it is and the onset of ‘the cloud’ do you still need that office to do your work in?

Now bear with me and I shall explain further.  Lets take the internet first.

If your laptop / tablet / smartphone has wireless capability (and they all do) then you can access the internet from anywhere there is wifi (e.g coffee shop, own house and even MacDonalds if you so wish!!).

Now lets take your documents.

There are now products like Google Apps or Office 365 which allow you to access and work on your documents from anywhere with an internet connection.  You edit your files and save them online.  They also allow multiple people to collaborate on a document at the same time.  All this comes secure too.

If you don’t like the idea of Google Apps or Office 365 then you could go down the online storage route with something like Dropbox.  All your files are stored online and can be downloaded at any time, edited and then uploaded to the internet.  Anyone with access to your Dropbox account is able to see all the documents too.

Then there is email.  How many small companies actually host their own email server? Using the companies I work with as a reference (1-15 employees) not that many which means that their emails are already hosted online.

So with your documents and emails available from anywhere what is there holding you back? Meetings? These can be arranged to take place in a coffee shop in a relaxing atmosphere (I do this all the time).

Maybe you need to access a central piece of business critical software?  I can see how this might become an issue but using products like Amazon Web Services (AWS) you can now host all your critical business software on a virtual server online and only pay for what you use.

What about the need to look professional and have the business address? This is very important however this can be solved by using virtual offices.  You pay a company (usually on a monthly basis) for an address and telephone number in an existing building (if you’re lucky you might even get a receptionist too!!).  In the Stirling area I can recommend Ceteris for this.

I totally understand that depending on the size and nature of your business the ‘No Office’ solution might not be practicable however if you are a small business with less than 5 employees (or even a sole trader) I would seriously think about it because if nothing else you would save on your office rental costs.

Has anyone already done this?

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter




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